Montenegro investigates Russians, Montenegrins on suspicion of spying

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BELGRADE, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Authorities in Montenegro have launched an investigation against an unspecified number of people on charges of espionage, a spokesman for the Special State Prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Podgorica-based daily Pobjeda reported said Montenegro’s Agency for National Security (ANB) and the Special State Prosecutor’s office (SDT) had detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins on suspicion of espionage.

Vukas Radonjic, an SDT spokesman, told Reuters police raided several apartments seeking evidence of conspiracy and espionage.

“Following the request of the SDT and the court order, police are searching a number of apartments and other premises due to reasonable suspicion of conspiring to make a criminal enterprise and espionage,” he told Reuters by phone.

Radonjic said that after the completion of the searches “it will be determined who will be charged and arrested”.

He did not specify how many suspects have been taken for questioning.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said on a live broadcast of a cabinet session that an “international operation” with foreign partners and the state prosecutor’s office was under way to preserve the country’s interests, but he did not elaborate.

Montenegro, a NATO member and an candidate for European Union membership, has joined international sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. It has expelled Russian diplomats in the past.

The Russian embassy did not immediately answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.

In 2016, Montenegro accused Russian agents of involvement in a plot to bring the pro-Russian opposition to power, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and halt the integration of the former Yugoslav republic into NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed such accusations as absurd. Montenegro joined the Western military alliance in 2017.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

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